Over the past weekend, I noticed an interesting Facebook post about a tweet that a Catholic cardinal “supposed” sent via Twitter. Whether his intention was heretical or if it was simply loose and careless theology could certainly be up for debate, I wish to write to clarify the reasons for why Jesus was actually Baptized.
Contrary to what was purported by the cardinal, Jesus did not require Baptism for salvation and also did not need to be “reborn in grace”. Already sinless, Jesus first and foremost entered the waters of the Jordan as an example for the new sacramental life of grace for his disciples to follow. In John 3:5 Jesus taught Nicodemus [and later us] of the necessity for Baptism when he declared, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of this passage as well:
Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!” (No. 1253).
Along with modeling the importance of Baptism, though Jesus himself did not require cleansing from sin, three additional lessons may be learned from the Event of the Baptism of Our Lord.
1. Fulfillment of Old Testament: Several key events in the Bible relate to water. The Flood in Genesis 6-8, the Crossing of the Red Sea, and the Crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land are just a few of the aquatic occasions detailed in the Old Testament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC 129).
The Baptism of Jesus is a feast to help us realize the fulfillment of God’s promises from long ago.
2. Prefiguring Death of Jesus: Along with being foreshadowed in the Old Testament, Jesus’ Baptism signified an anticipation of his Death. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes this perfectly in his work Jesus of Nazareth,
Looking at the events (of Christ’s baptism) in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, ”Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon. 1:12) . . . The baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word
“baptism” to refer to his death (18).
Death to sin [original] gives way to a new life in the sacrament of Baptism. A new life of grace occurs through the waters of Baptism.
3. Doorway to Adoption: According to my favorite reference book– the thesaurus, synonyms for adoption include the following: acceptance, confirmation, ratification, and support. While each of those words convey a strong and position sense of adoption the synonym that stood out most to me was embracing. Biological birth occurs through the profound act of sex, however, unfortunately not every child is welcomed a gift as a result. The major difference with adoption versus biological parenthood is that the former always seeks out the child to be welcomed into the family whereas that is not always the case for the latter. Please note that this is not a knock on biological parents as some of the best parents gained children through biology [i.e. MY PARENTS!].
The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism in paragraph 1265, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” Because of original sin, the biology of humanity is tarnished with a natural aversion from God’s will. Humans naturally seek their own will over the Will of the Father. Through the waters of Baptism, people cleansed of original sin and enter into the door of the sacramental life of the Church.
While Jesus did not require rebirth into the sacramental life of grace, he was baptized by John in the Jordan River to fulfill the Old Testament, prefigure his Death and Resurrection, and be a model for God’s faithful. German Catholic philosopher Josef Piper declared, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” The graces received through the sacrament of Baptism truly brings good news as we become adopted children of God!
Along with my enjoyment of crafting the written word into sentences, paragraphs, coherent thoughts, and detailing my struggles and limitations, I began The Simple Catholic blog with the aim to pursue the joy of the Gospel in my pilgrim journey on this Earth. This thing about joy is that it is always momentarily and never actually something you can produce yourself. Joy is different from mere happiness as joy hints at a higher reality and is a gift from God. Happiness, on the other hand, may be man-made, it is something able to be manufactured and it provides temporary pleasure.
According to C.S. Lewis discussing a life experience in Surprised by Joy wrote, “I called it [his experience] Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is” (p. 18). The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1829). Only through love of God and neighbor, through the virtue of charity is the gift of joy received!
Another interesting thing about joy is that we receive this gift unexpectedly. Ironically, and no pun intended, when I noticed Lewis’ Surprised by Joy hidden on the bottom of a bookshelf in the local used books store joy immediately flooded in. I was “surprised by joy!” Out of great love for C.S. Lewis, I was grateful and joyful to have the opportunity to purchase his wonderful conversion story.
Earlier this week, I received joyful and surprising news—I was going to see a college buddy of mine. My wife texted, “We are having dinner at XXX and XXX’s house on Saturday! We are bringing dessert.” While at face value this message appeared ordinary, charity transforms seemingly mundane events into joyful ones! I was not excited about the dessert or a change in scenery for dinner. Rather, I was joyful about spending time with my friend and his family.
Joy involves the in-breaking of the transcendent reality into this earthly existence. Joy hints at a higher reality of Heaven—communion with God forever. According to Saint John Paul II, “Christ remains primary in your life only when he enjoys the first place in your mind and heart. Thus you must continuously unite yourself to him in prayer…. Without prayer there can be no joy, no hope, no peace. For prayer is what keeps us in touch with Christ.”
Joy is a gift we receive when we live for others and receive it most fully when we live for the Ultimate Others—the Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sin separates us from the joy of love of God and fellow man. We need to ask God for the gift of joy, the fruit of charity to be aware of the little moments He meets us throughout our life. The first step after prayer is just others over yourself!
The great American advice writer Ann Landers once wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” As someone who started consistently writing for a few years now, I realize that fruits of my labor normally take time to ripen. My father grow up on a farm so I always found growing and collecting plants as a solid analogy to relate to the development of my thoughts as I write them down.
Anticipation of harvesting [and organizing], information into a clear and systematized message is one of the more fulfilling things I enjoy in this life! At least twice a week I read Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellingtonto my children before bedtime. Along with snuggling with my children and reading books in general, this title especially holds special meaning to me as I tend to view my personal blog and writing endeavors as a cerebral orchard of my thoughts, fears, hopes, joys, and dreams. This week I was able to reap the real fruits from the watering of my labors, tears, and graces from God. Like a farmer who plants crops despite the uncertainty of weather, some of the posts that I plan to write don’t actually come to fruition. Taking chances necessarily involve the possibility of rejection. Whenever fear or doubt grip me I am reminded by the words of hockey legend Wayne Gretsky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”
Over the course of the past several years, I received plenty of rejections [or worse yet—no responses] on inquires for various websites/magazines that I contacted to write for. God certainly possesses a sense of humor as the most surprising [and even greatest] blessings in my life arrive almost immediately after chaotic and stressful periods. Reaching out to the founder of EpicPew.com, I intrepidly, but confidently, asked about the possibility of contributing to his wonderful Catholic site. I prayed for a breakthrough into the Catholic writing scene—collaborating with this website was on my writing wish-list for the longest time! I received a reply that asked about my availability and when I could start. If I was not so tired, I noticed this early in the morning, I would have jumped for joy! I am so incredibly thankful and even more so humbled by this new writing opportunity.
Together with the excitement of furthering my professional written arsenal, this new opportunity to work spreading the Gospel message in the 21st century ultimately will provide me another way for me to increase in holiness. St. Josemaria Escriva stated, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary professional work, and you will have sanctified it.” The Second Vatican Council also reminded Catholics in the mid-20th century of the importance of work as a means for sanctifying oneself. According to the document Apostolicam Actuositatem paragraph the Council Fathers clearly stated this fact,
Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord’s words, “He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy.(5) These are to be used by the laity in such a way that while correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate union with Christ from their life but rather performing their work according to God’s will they grow in that union. In this way the laity must make progress in holiness in a happy and ready spirit, trying prudently and patiently to overcome difficulties.(6) Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be irrelevant to their spiritual life, in keeping with the words of the Apostle, “What-ever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
Thank you Lord again for this amazing and providential opportunity to write for EpicPew.com. I am appreciative for all those individuals past and present who helped me grown and learn as a writer!
According to 18th century British poet Alexander Pope, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Although as a perfectionist and someone who thrives on routine, my immediate reaction to his words would be to disagree. However, I am actively seeking to stretch my preconceived notions and prejudices, especially when it comes to challenging situations. Possessing a penchant for order, clear expectations, and knowledge of what exactly I should expect in daily life, I do not always adjust to unexpected changes gracefully.
In fact, I think as a whole humanity tends to be geared towards order, structure, routine, and regular habits. When faced with the unexpected a natural reaction usually is to question the purpose or cause of the upheaval of our “control”. As recent as the new changes [developments as I prefer to call them] to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the issue of the death penalty, people seem to have [over]reactions to something new, and possibly unexpected! Now, I am not going to provide you may thoughts on the new developments on Catholic Church teaching on capital punishment—I hope to write about this on a later time—it is just one example of how mankind does not seamlessly adjust to unexpected changes.
The words of C.S. Lewis appropriately describe our seeking to “control the unexpected”. In his work A Grief Observed the Christian apologist declared, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination” [emphasis added]. Humanity in the 21st century seeks to dominate all aspects of our life. Even the abortion clinics in the United States contain a euphemism—Planned Parenthood—as if children are something to be ultimately controlled! Why cannot we plan all aspects of life? Would it not be easier to live each and every day free of the stresses of the unknown and unexpected?
Control over all variance that a creature with free will such as man would in fact actually lead to a cold-indifferent robotic society. Attempts to eliminate pain, risk, and the unknown of life would also mean that joy, humor, and creativity would disappear. C.S. Lewis summed up this tension between free will and pain in the world best in The Case for Christianity:
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.
Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.
1. Love Worth the Unexpected: After a busy week of wrangling and wearing out my three children through taking them to the park, walks around the neighbor, piggyback rides, picking up strewn toys—for the 100th time!—and trying to put the children to bed for what feels like the 1,000th time, I am tanked. Drained out energy I oftentimes lack the strength to be fully present to my wife.
When I am motivated by controlling my kids sleep schedule instead of love, I actually lose control. Love involves permitting free will to occur and setting boundary-lines to avoid self-destructive habits. God as the All-Loving Father graced humanity with the ability to freely choose Him or to reject Him. He provided guidelines for love to grow and flourish both in expected—and expected ways. Freedom involves the unexpected from time to time and love is always worth the unexpected—we just have to make a daily decision to choose love over selfish arbitrary control!
2. Creativity of the Creator: Along with love being worth the unexpected, total control over one’s life actually stymies creativity—an essential feature of love. Whenever I think of creative individuals, famous or people within my life, words that immediately come to mind include: passionate, intelligent, desire, attentive, and inventive. Albert Einstein, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Thomas Edison are individuals that I think of right away that fit this above description. A further trait of creative individuals is that the act of creation originates not from need, but rather from love and or pursuit of a higher reality.
As a creature created by the Creator, man is not meant to be a static, robotic entity. Creativity naturally entails an involvement on behalf of the Creator with creation. Evidence of this is found in Genesis 1 which shows God actively involved and attentive to the creation of the universe—paying heed to both the whole and the details. Throughout the day, my children act creatively by lovingly engaging in imaginative play via erecting Lego-structures, racing toy cars, or dressing up stuffed animals for “dance parties”. While general boundaries exist in play, the joy, creativity, and humor of childhood [and life as a whole too!] exist when the constraints of control do not rule absolutely supreme.
According to J.R.R. Tolkien, “The most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing [controlling] other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” Regulating reality is not inherently bad, as with most things moderation is the key. Limiting surprises is not necessarily a bad thing. Humans need routine to thrive. The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. Our freedom to choose influence over our surroundings should not be at the expenses of our soul or our fellow man!
Catholics around the world [and throughout time] celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th. Along with the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Motherhood of Mary this feast day is a holy day of obligation for Mass attendance. The reason for this is due to the veneration—NOT WORSHIP—Catholics hold for the Mother of God. Marian doctrines closely relate and point us to the even greater truth of the Incarnation—God becoming Man. While specifically, the feasts of Mary, Mother of God and Immaculate Conception point to the teaching of the Incarnation, the feast of the Assumption orients us to look toward the Resurrection of Jesus.
1. Assumption—Logically Flows from Being Immaculately Conceived: When I taught high school theology one of my favorite lessons involved the subject of the teachings on Mary. I enjoyed showing the interconnectedness between the various Marian dogmas. Because she was preserved free from the stain of original sin, Mary would not suffer the same type of bodily decay and separation of body and soul the rest of mankind—born into original sin—suffered/would suffer. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 966, “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”
Along with the clear connection made in the catechism, Divine Providence inspired the office of the papacy to proclaim the infallible teaching pertaining to Mary to be viewed in unity with one another. Pope Pius IX in 1854 infallibly defined Mary as being immaculately conceived and nearly a century later his successor bearing the same appellation—Pius XII—formerly declared the infallible dogma of Mary being taken into Heaven Body and Soul.
2. Assumption Hinting at the Resurrection and Destination of Heaven: Again, I will defer to the Catechism for the best explanation of the Assumption of Mary pointing to the Resurrection, “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:
In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. [Emphasis added mine] (CCC966).
According to Saint Pope John Paul II, “In her, assumed into heaven, we are shown the eternal destiny that awaits us beyond the mystery of death: a destiny of total happiness in divine glory. This supernatural vision sustains our daily pilgrimage. Mary teaches about life. By looking at her, we understand better the relative value of earthly greatness and the full sense of our Christian vocation.” Saint Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus articulated the fact that Mary orients us to Heaven even more clearly, “it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.” Because the entirely of Mary’s earthly life centered on obedience and love of God, she is the perfect guide to the Son and union with God in Heavenly bliss. Marian titles such as Stella Maris [Latin for Star of the Sea] and Morning Star point to the reality as well.
Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, gives Christians hope that the promise of the Resurrection and eternal life is a gift that may be attained through the merciful gift of grace poured out through the Sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross and via our cooperation with this divine grace by obeying God’s Word. I am grateful for the gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Advocate in times of darkness. Please pray for us in our time of need!
“Mary shines on earth “until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen gentium, n. 68).
Irish playwright Bernard Shaw spoke once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” Truly, what could be more commonplace than eating, save for drinking water or possibly sleep. Food is a necessity to living—nourishment sustains us physically. Ralph Waldo Emerson whimsically wrote, “Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” Any physical good in this world is susceptible to become an evil if it interferes with a higher good or turns into a disordered love.
Excessive eating of sugary foods [candy, mocha coffees, and fast food] is something I have struggled with over the course of recent months—an past few years! Normally, I would rationalize my food choices. “I have a good metabolism!” or “I ran several miles yesterday,” were a couple of my excuses for refusing to stymie my desire for fast-food and over-indulging in sweets. While some people may simply view overeating leading to physical effects, this bad habit of gluttony actually may have pernicious changes to your spiritual life.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1866, gluttony is listed among the deadly sins, “Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.138 They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.”
Although not the most sinister, dangerous, or even the most common of the 7 deadly sins, the sin of gluttony seems to go under the radar and unnoticed as an underlying issue. Perhaps it is because I live in the United States and 21st century were food choices and availability abound, but I always viewed gluttony as the stealthiest of the capital sins. The Evil One seeks to entrap souls by stumbling into this seemingly benign pit of primal urge to eat. Pope Saint Gregory the Great spoke of gluttony in this manner, “The vice of gluttony tempts us in five ways. Sometimes it forestalls the hour of need; sometimes it seeks costly meats; sometimes it requires the food to be daintily cooked; sometimes it exceeds the measure of refreshment by taking too much; sometimes we sin by the very heat of an immoderate appetite.” My unhealthy desire for Burger King Ice Mocha Coffees certainly fit the holy pontiff’s description as a temptation. Increased expenses in our budget and causing me to rush to work unnecessarily are physical effects of my gluttonous attachment.
Regarding my spiritual life, my gluttonous habits caused undue financial stresses and anger flares between my wife and I. What is the remedy to my sickness? Simple. Say no to the bad and say yes to the good!
1. Fasting: Pope Saint John Paul II declared, “Fasting is to reaffirm to oneself what Jesus answered Satan when he tempted him at the end of his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Combined with the sacrament of Confession the fruit of fasting include greater self-control and trust in God. Currently, I am limiting my caffeine intake and making more conscience and controlled situations with what I eat.
Fasting means abstaining from food, but includes other forms of self-denial to promote a more sober lifestyle. But that still isn’t the full meaning of fasting, which is the external sign of the internal reality of our commitment to abstain from evil with the help of God and to live the Gospel . . .
2. Say Yes to the Good: What exactly is good? Is that not relative to each individual? Ultimately, there is an inherent goodness to all of creation—Genesis 1:31 mentions “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” Saint Augustine reiterated this biblical truth that all created reality contains goodness, but focusing on a smaller good over a greater good is in a sense committing evil. “All of nature, therefore, is good, since the Creator of all nature is supremely good. But nature is not supremely and immutably good as is the Creator of it. Thus the good in created things can be diminished and augmented. For good to be diminished is evil,” the Doctor of the Church declared in his Confessions. Place creation above human interactions would be considered disordered and likewise placing humans over God would be also disordered.
Giving up my penchant for coffee and sugar
to sacrifice for the greater good of my
family’s budget—more money to go around
for healthier food and needs for my children,
is following the chain of being.
Forming better habits involve sacrificing
lesser good for higher goods. The first step is
to say no to the bad—this may be achieve
with penance and fasting. Secondly, say YES
to the good—prioritize accordingly. God first,
others second, yourself third.
“And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” –Matthew 19:17